Summer Sunday Reading Recap

A consolidation of some of my recent reads in case you need a sunny Sunday recco…

My favourite summer Sunday reading view.

To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters

Perfection!!!

This book was everything. Why else would I have been so desperate to finish it that I stayed up until the wee hours, even though my teething baby was finally sleeping and I could’ve actually gotten some rest?!

Love witty, sexy romances? Read. This.

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

Oh my gosh, I adored this!!! 

At first I felt lukewarm about it, but once adult Tate and Sam started to become friendly and speak more honestly to each other, I was all in. My heart was beating so fast at parts and I had tears in my eyes a few times too!

A perfect romance!!!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Patroclus was too good for this world. And too good for Achilles. 

“But is it not a sort of genius to cut always to the heart?”

“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

M-A-M-A ~ My Dream Job

When I was an adolescent, I wanted to be an actress. Part of me dreamed of starring in movies, like my favourite actress at the time Nicole Kidman. But, a bigger part of me longed to be a musical theatre actress, to sing, dance and act in my favourite plays, particularly Phantom of the Opera. I took vocal music lessons beginning in grade 8, up until grade 10, in the hopes of honing my skills to one day be on Broadway.

I’ll be honest, though, I don’t think my voice ever would’ve been good enough. I can be real with myself now, at 28 years old, and admit that I have an okay voice at best.

Yet, somehow, my voice is absolutely perfect when I’m singing to my son Dorian. 

When I’m performing for him, I hit all the right notes, both high and low. When I’m dancing for him, my feet are light and graceful. He doesn’t demand specific songs in so many words, but his chocolate brown eyes light up when I start the first notes to “Part of Your World” or “Tomorrow” or “Let’s Go Fly A Kite”. When I sing “Angel of Music” to him, he smiles and laughs, even if I can’t quite hit all of Christine’s soprano notes. When I swirl around with him, humming “Singing In The Rain”, his eyes shine even though my toes don’t twinkle as much as Gene Kelly’s. Dorian thinks I’m the greatest actress and singer in the whole wide world, because I’m his mama.

When I started university, I wanted to be a writer. Not a writer of a blog (no offence to this wonderful space) or a writer of emails, but a writer of fiction. I wanted to pen an epic novel like something Dickens or John Irving would write. I wanted to reignite the short story genre like Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant did. I wanted to see my own beautiful book in Indigo and have my best friend call me from there saying that she was rearranging the shelves to put my book right up front.

I’ll be honest, though, I don’t think I have an idea in me that could become a novel. Sure, I have tons of stories floating in my head at any given time, but if I’m being totally honest, I don’t see myself sitting down to write one single work for hundreds and hundreds of pages. I don’t know that I have that one stellar story in me.

Yet, somehow, I am a masterful writer when I tell stories to my son Dorian.

When I’m cuddling with him in bed at night, whispering about our future trips to Disney World, I have narratives coming out of my eyeballs. I have nicknames for him that seem to pop out of nowhere, and I can make up a million different voices to use for all of his toys, as if they are each distinct characters. Don’t get me started on when I’m reading his children’s book to him…then, I become a narrator par excellence, giving a dramatic reading of “Feed Me” or “I’m a T. Rex” that would make Dickens proud. Dorian thinks I’m the greatest storyteller in the whole wide world, because I’m his mama.

I’ve wanted to be a lot of things in my life: a university professor, a book reviewer, even a Bond Girl. But, to be honest, I never really wanted to be a mother until I was one. Theoretically, I wanted to have my own family, but I didn’t daydream about playing with my child the way I envisioned singing on a stage or giving a book signing.

Now that I am a mother, however, it is without doubt the dream job I have forever been looking for. It is the role I feel that I was born to have; I believe I was put on this Earth to love Dorian Lee and to give him the incredible life he so deserves.

A few days ago, Dorian said “mama” for the first time…and with just those two little syllables, he solidified the only identity I will ever need.

Janille N G

Mummy with a Green Heart

A Much Overdue Update ~ #JNGReads A WHOLE LOT!!!

Oh my word and a half, it has been wayyy too long since I posted a book review here on the blog!

There’s no reason for this at all because I have been reading voraciously and have actually finished over 40 books this year so far, which is pretty epic, if I do say so myself.

I just haven’t gotten around to posting the reviews that I uploaded on Goodreads here because they seemed too short and insubstantial to warrant an entire post. But then, paradoxically, that means I’m not posting reviews at all, which is just plain wrong. Sooo, what I think I’m going to do moving forward is round up a bunch of book reviews on Fridays, for all the books I’ve read in the preceding week. That way, I can keep you all updated and stay on top of things myself, and if there is a book that I’ve particularly enjoyed and want to speak more in-depth about, I can post a longer, one-off review for it.

Without further ado, here is a looong overdue update on the books I have finished recently…

Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens

Does Kiera have any redeeming qualities? Short answer: No. Long answer: Nooope!

It was hard to get into this romance when I couldn’t figure out why anyone would love the main character in the first place.

❥❥ (out of 5)

Vicious Depths by Madeline Stanford

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

I survived. 

What a freaking ride. I have like 10 more grey hairs now than I did when I started this massive novel. 

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

This book is heavier than my 8-month old son.

Trust me, it was not easy to hold them both!

Beach Read by Emily Henry

This book wasn’t at all what I expected…and yet I ended up loving it for that. 

The cover will deceive you into thinking this is a cheerful, fluffy read…it is anything but. It hits hard, tackling subjects like cancer, infidelity, death and abuse, and the characters are so much more than typical romance clichés. 

I am very close to my father, so I particularly felt touched by the relationship between January and her dad, and her struggles with the realization that even a beloved parent can only ever also be a human. 

At first, I struggled to feel the sizzle between January and Gus, but by the end of this book, I was all in and enthralled by their witty and quirky banter. 

To say this book is a simple beach read would sorely undermine it…it is an excellent read, let’s leave it at that.

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Lucifer, Book 1

Not entirely sure I know what’s going on fully, but this seems brilliant.

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Hmm… This was pretty good. Exciting, a page turner, fast-paced. Although, I have to say that the ending wasn’t as shocking as I expected given all the hype. Still definitely binge-worthy though!

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

I didn’t really like this one, I hate to say. 

It felt disjointed and rushed to me, and I ultimately couldn’t figure out what it wanted to be. 

I think this book suffers from an identity crisis, torn between commentary on body positivity and the dangers of social media and being a murder mystery. The fact that Daphne was a plus-size Instagram influencer felt pointless throughout the second half of the novel, and her constant dwelling on her physical appearance once the mystery element got started seemed inappropriate and unnecessary. I struggled to feel connected to or like any of the characters because it all just felt too rushed and like Weiner was after gasps and shock-value more than creating vivid and memorable characters. Daphne could’ve been far more poignant of a character if the twist of the book didn’t exist at all and she was simply allowed to tell the story of her relationship with a toxic best friend and her struggles to accept who she is in a social media-driven world. In the end, the twist just felt like a gimmick more than anything, a way to get on those “Hot Summer Read” lists without much real effort. 

As a sidenote, one of my pet peeves in novels is when there are tons of spelling and grammatical errors. I get it, though…even editors are human and can miss things. BUT how did it get missed that Weiner sometimes calls Daphne’s babysitting charge (why was this aspect of Daphne’s life even mentioned when it led nowhere, I wonder) “Izzie” and other times spells her name “Izzy”?! This, I cannot look past!

❥❥ (out of 5)

In Pieces by Danielle Pearl

Wow wow wow!!!

Not only is this book steamy and the perfect hot summer read, it also features one of the most accurate depictions of anxiety I’ve ever read. I was not expecting that, but I truly appreciated it!

Highly recommend this one to romance lovers! You will not be disappointed!!!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Thunder On The Right by Mary Stewart

I feel kind of meh towards this. It was an okay mystery and was very atmospheric and descriptive, and it took me back to my days of reading Nancy Drew novels as a child…but it wasn’t amazing. I much prefer Stewart’s novel Nine Coaches Waiting and would recommend that over this one.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This is an absolutely beautiful book in every regard, from the words it is written with to the images it paints. An utter masterpiece, full of moments and descriptions that are truly magical and that I will not soon forget!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Thanks so much for reading! xox

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Contempor-May ☀️

Are you looking for a heart-stopping contemporary book to read this month, as the weather turns warmer and the sun shines through our open windows?

Well, look no further! I’ve done the heavy-lifting for you and have read 6 – count ‘em, 6! – contemporary novels in the last 2 weeks, and I’m here to recommend them to you. All 6 of these books are really great, and you’d do well to pick up any of them, but if I had to recommend my absolute favourites of the bunch, I’d go with I Owe You One, In Five Years and (the absolute frontrunner and my new faveee book evaaa!) You Deserve Each Other. 

So, what are you waiting for? Hop on your local bookstore’s website and PICK. THESE. UP!!!

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

OMG, I needed this book!!!

This has to be my favourite Kinsella book since I’ve Got Your Number! Yes, it was a departure for her in many ways as the romance took a bit of a backseat to the familial love story, but that’s what I appreciated about it. I adored Fixie, and even though I despised her siblings for most of the book, by the end, I liked and was rooting for them. 

Kinsella’s books have always been a solace to me ever since I picked up Shopaholic in high school as a reprieve from studying for senior exams. I Owe You One gave me the same fuzzy feelings, like curling up in a warm blanket, like coming home! 

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Spanish Promise by Karen Swan

While this isn’t my favourite Karen Swan book, fortunately, she can do no wrong. This novel was exciting and fast-paced (even if the morality of the characters was sometimes questionable), and while the parts about the Spanish Civil War weren’t my favourite, they were still interesting and clearly well-researched. Highly entertaining, for sure!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Expectation by Anna Hope

I have read all of Anna Hope’s books and have found each one to be beautifully and hauntingly written. This is no exception. 

Hannah’s narrative in particular was touching to me. As a new mother who became pregnant quite easily, I felt so emotional for Hannah and there were moments where my eyes filled with tears as I took in her experiences. 

This was well-written and moving and I would highly recommend it as a lovely Mother’s Day read/gift.

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

This book was a hard one for me, for reasons that I don’t want to discuss (ie- spoilers). Suffice it to say, though, that In Five Years was not at all what I was expecting…and I mean that in the best way possible! It was so much more profound than a typical “chick lit” novel, and it has solidified Rebecca Serle as an author I will return to again and again in the future. I loved The Dinner List when I read it early last year, but In Five Years felt so much more sophisticated, poignant and touching. Probably one of the best and most unique contemporary novels I’ll read this year, I’m calling it now.

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Normal People by Sally Rooney

“Life is the thing you bring with you inside your own head.” 

I am perplexed by this novel, particularly the unresolved ending. I enjoyed Rooney’s writing style a lot and agree with many reviews I’ve read that it is hypnotic, but I don’t know that it was enough to make me love this book. A strange one for sure!

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

I asked my husband to sleep on the couch tonight so that me and this book could snuggle up together, undisturbed. I know he is my real-life Nicholas Benjamin Rosefield because, rather than feeling threatened by a work of literature that has clearly stolen a substantial piece of my heart, he actually agreed.

“We already know each other’s worst. We’ve battled right through it and come out the other side unbreakable. There will inevitably be arguments, concessions, and peace treaties drawn up in spilled blood, sweat, and tears. We’re going to have to choose each other, over and over, and be each other’s champion, never letting ourselves forget the good whenever we’re stuck in a patch of bad. It’s going to be work. But let me tell you something about Nicholas Benjamin Rosefield:

He’s worth it.”

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

xox

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Why going on anxiety medication is the best thing I ever did…

I’ve wrestled with generalized anxiety since high school, if not earlier. I was always a high strung child, even as early as elementary school when I remember being mortified if I accidentally forgot to do my homework one day, and paranoid and fearful about very unrealistic and improbable things such as house fires and robot invasions. At that young age, I didn’t identify that I had an anxiety disorder or anything like it, but once I settled into my overambitious high school persona, it started to become clear to my teachers, my friends, my parents and eventually myself that I was a bit more, shall we say, obsessive than the average teenager. I called it perfectionism and the desire to be the best at everything I set my mind to. My friends called it being an overachiever. My teachers called it success. My parents didn’t call it anything…they just supported me unconditionally and lent me a shoulder to cry on whenever I needed it.

When I entered university and my desire to be perfect continued and at times became borderline unbearable, I started to admit to myself that maybe the way I was wasn’t exactly working for me. I became more aware of what anxiety actually was, and I self-diagnosed myself. But (and this is the crux of my experience of mental health concerns), I was reluctant to do anything to change my mentality or my way of life. I had it in my mind that if I sought help, either through therapy, mindfulness techniques, or medication, I would lose who I was irrevocably. I thought that my anxiety was a fundamental part of who I was as a person, and most importantly as a student, and I feared that if I did anything at all to lessen it, my academic success and hopes for the future would similarly disappear.

This is the main (foolish) reason I avoided seeking counsel and taking medication for my anxiety for so many years. As I entered the workforce and started to forge a career, I maintained this unfounded belief that my anxiety was important and synonymous with my intelligence, determination and dedication. I thought that I couldn’t care about my work properly or to the necessary degree if I didn’t feel sometimes cripplingly anxious about it. I didn’t want to feel this way so much, but I also didn’t want to lose the qualities that I felt made me unique, standout and special.

Then, in January 2019, I fell pregnant and my whole world turned upside down. Don’t misunderstand me…I wanted a child very badly and my husband and I had decided that it was the best time in our lives to try to have a baby. I’ll admit, though, that I got pregnant much sooner than I was expecting, and while I don’t think you can ever be truly prepared to get pregnant, I certainly wasn’t ready to see those two pink lines appear so quickly. In any case, because I ultimately wanted to bring a child into my world, I tried my best to embrace my pregnancy, even at times when the world around me seemed to rebel against it. I was, however, predisposed to higher rates of anxiety because of my history with it, and when I reached the end of my first trimester, everything came to a head. I was feeling an immense amount of pressure from a few corners of my life, and I started having frequent, overwhelming panic attacks unlike anything I had ever experienced. I had to take a step back from my professional and social lives and really re-evaluate what I was doing to keep myself mentally healthy (at that point, not very much). It was at this point that my obstetrician referred me to a psychiatrist and I started my official journey toward mental wellness.

For my entire pregnancy, I was plagued by the most intense and severe anxiety I have ever known. My psychiatrist was an absolute saving grace, and she led me through mindfulness practices such as meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy techniques, and she encouraged me to read and exercise and get out as much as I could. But, every time she mentioned medication to me, I resisted. Part of me absolutely wanted to try to stay off medication for the duration of my pregnancy; although many anxiety medications are safe to take while pregnant, I had never taken any medication before and so I wanted to be able to assess how my body and mind would adjust to it without risking any side effects to my unborn son. Another part of me, I must admit, was just scared to take that step I had avoided for my entire life. I still had this fear that if I started taking any sort of medication, I would become an entirely different person. Would I be financially responsible anymore? Would I be a great employee anymore? Would I be a conscientious and thoughtful friend, wife and mother?

I told myself that I would think seriously about taking medication once my son was born…and then, all of a sudden, the decision was almost made for me. I suffered from such severe postpartum anxiety that I was beside myself and more scared than I have ever been, and it was then that I knew something had to give. Nothing was more important to me than being a present mother to my son, and I knew in my heart that medication was the step I had to take at that time in my anxiety journey. Yes, I found meditation and self-reflection and exercise extremely helpful, but there was only so much I could do on my own and I was at the point where I was just so tired and wanted to give my brain the bit of extra help it deserved after years and years of dealing with anxiety on its own. I spoke at length to my psychiatrist and we decided on the best medication for me, and then I spent a difficult few weeks waiting for it to take affect.

Now, almost 7 months postpartum, I can confidently say that starting to take medication for my anxiety was the absolute best thing I ever did. I am not a doctor, of course, and so I cannot make recommendations for anyone else or say if medication is the best course of action for the next person…but, for me, it was the next logical step and it was the right thing to do. I am more me than ever, in a strange way, and while I haven’t had a proper panic attack since I started my medication, I still care about my role as a mother and about running my home. I’m still diligent and passionate, and I still like to have a handle on the things going on around me. But, I am also more relaxed, more logical, and I am able to step back in overwhelming moments and give myself a chance to reflect before flying off the handle. This doesn’t mean that I never feel nervous, but when I do, I am able to breathe through the sensation and actually silence my anxious mind enough to use the mindfulness techniques I worked hard to acquire.

I feel that medication has made me stronger and cleared my mind, and, as I said although it may not be the best choice for everyone, it is one that I am infinitely happy I made. I haven’t lost any aspect of myself…on the contrary, I have gained so much confidence and clarity, and that is something I wouldn’t trade for anything!

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart